And not always in a good way.
There are 41 stories in this volume, 12 of them novelette length, and 7 of them novellas. At 960 pages, there’s a lot of SF here, and most of it enjoyable. Most of it also published in the 1990s, but since this collection was published in 2002, that shouldn’t be surprising. If Mr. Hartwell were still with us, I wonder what kind of volume of Hard SF he might have put together using the first decade or so of the 21st century.
As it is, he gathered a group of good stories. Yes, there were a few that didn’t quite work for me or were only okay, but only one I actually disliked and more because I found the concept and the structure of the people and society a little on the ridiculous side.
For standout stories, I’ll give five, alphabetically by title:
An Ever-Reddening Glow by David Brin
Bicycle Repairman by Bruce Sterling
Immersion by Gregory Benford
Into the Miranda Rift by G. David Nordley
Reasons to be Cheerful by Greg Egan
It’s not lost on me that four of these fall into the longer ranges. Of course, the stories on the lower end of my enjoyment spectrum fall into the longer group as well. A couple of those were really hard to finish, dragging on for a ridiculously long time. Marrow springs to mind as the foremost in this group, something that later ballooned into a novel with two sequels plus a gigantic collection of short stories.
But better to dwell on the positive, because there’s a lot positive here, and the author list is almost a who’s who of 1990s and early 2000s SF. A little more gender balance would be nice, but the quality of the writing is high.
Overall rating: 3.5 stars, which I’ll probably round up to four. It’s a well put together anthology with a lot of variety built in. If you like SF, there will be something in here you’ll enjoy.by